The Ladies' Gallery

Illustrated London News, 1879

The Ladies' Gallery was created in the new Palace of Westminster by Charles Barry after the fire of 1834.

Ventilation shaft

Before 1834, women wanting to watch proceedings in the House of Commons had to do so via a ventilation shaft in the ceiling. Although this did provide a means of viewing debates for a small number of well-connected women, it was restricted and uncomfortable.

Ladies' Gallery

The Ladies' Gallery created by Barry had windows covered with heavy metal grilles, which made it difficult to see or hear.  Millicent Fawcett wrote, 'One great discomfort of the grille was that the interstices of the heavy brasswork were not large enough to allow the victims who sat behind it to focus... it was like using a gigantic pair of spectacles which did not fit, and made the Ladies' Gallery a grand place for getting headaches.'

The grilles became both a physical and metaphorical symbol of women's exclusion from Parliament, and later a target of suffragette agitation.

External links

Search the Offical Report of all the debates in Parliament that took place between 1803-1805